Ontario releases workplace safety guidelines as talk turns to reopening sectors of the economy

covid 19 safety poster

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Ontario government has released an extensive list of safety guidelines designed to protect workers, customers as employers begin preparing for a gradual reopening of the provincial economy.

The government safety guidelines released today will provide direction to those working in manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service, and the agricultural sector. They build on more than 60 guidelines developed by Ontario’s health and safety associations in response to COVID-19 for various sectors such as retail, health care, construction, transportation, police services, firefighters, and transit employees. 

“We all want to reopen our businesses, services and favourite places across the province, but we must do it in a safe and responsible way,” Premier Doug Ford said at a Thursday press conference. “That’s why we are providing clear guidelines to employers, with practical measures to help them keep staff and customers safe while preventing the spread of COVID-19. By taking these steps, we will be prepared to get people back to work when the time is right.”

Starting this week, 58 new inspectors will join the hundreds of existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground. The inspectors, which include workers from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), will be tasked with communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, including physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.

New sector-specific guidelines feature recommended actions employers can begin to plan for as they prepare to adapt to the new reality during COVID-19, including:

  • Ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing, like eliminating pay-at-the-door options, holding team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow.
  • Changes to the workplace, like installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow, and using boot sanitizing trays.
  • Promoting proper workplace sanitation, providing personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, providing a place to dispose of sanitizing wipes, and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks.

The government is also issuing posters for workplaces to promote a variety of useful safety tips. The printable posters offer advice on physical distancing and sanitation. They are available for downloading here.

“These guidelines will help employers begin to plan for their safe reopening based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and in alignment with our framework to ease public health measures and restart our economy. In doing so, we can ensure we continue to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep workers safe,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

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